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Elmira BIA to expand services

The group representing businesses in downtown Elmira plans to be more active next year thanks to the expanded budget approved this week by Woolwich council.

With $13,560 added to its traditional $30,000 in funding, the downtown Business Improvement Area (BIA) plans to develop a directory and website to inform residents of the breadth of goods and services available in Elmira. Some $5,000 of the extra funds will be used next summer to hire an intern to compile the necessary information, explained chair Krista McBay.

The BIA receives $30,000 annually through a special tax levy on downtown businesses.

In a deal reached with the developer of the Wal-Mart-anchored development in St. Jacobs, the group will receive an additional $10,000 a year. Because that money won’t begin flowing until next year, the additional funds for the newly approved budget will come from the committee’s surplus account of about $31,000, finance director Richard Petherick told councillors Tuesday night.

Before the King/86 Developments power centre can be included in the BIA, a special meeting must be held and a new bylaw passed by council, he explained. That process won’t get underway until early in 2010.

Earlier this year, King/86 paid the BIA $90,000, part of the same deal that saw the BIA drop its objections during the long battle to halt the project, which involved an Ontario Municipal Board hearing.

That money, although not allocated yet, is expected to help revitalize the organization. The Business Improvement Area is a committee of council, appointed by and answerable to the municipality, which sets the group’s budget. The BIA in Elmira was formed in 1980, ostensibly to help deal with major downtown renovations that began in that era – long-term debt associated with those improvements was retired in 2002, after which the group seemed somewhat adrift.

The new executive in place hopes to change that, said McBay.

“We’re reinventing the whole BIA – from the logo to the motto to what we do for businesses.”

Coun. Sandy Shantz, the township’s representative on the committee, said she’s seen a change in the organization, which has stepped up its efforts to promote downtown businesses.

For the 2010 budget, beautification – including $10,000 for its hanging plants downtown, $4,000 for Christmas decorations and $2,500 for trees and flowerbeds – leads the way in spending.

That much again has been earmarked for promotion and advertising, including $2,500 to run the Elmira street dance, $7,000 for the annual sidewalk sale and moonlight madness events and $6,780 for mobile sign rentals.

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